Excerpts from the travels of
Dr. Bernard S. Vander
(1917 - ????)
A collection of expeditions from the unpublished diaries and audio recordings of Dr. Bernard S. Vander.
Dr. Bernard S. Vander, BA, PhD, FLS
Born in Persia to Drs. Edward J. and Ilsa Vander on October 7th, 1917.
Dr. Vander spent his childhood in the Ubangi Congo, where he lived with his
paternal grandfather. Here he gained an interest in the traditions and
legends of the natives and first learned of the legend of the Mokele Mbembe.
At the age of 16, he attended Oxford University, where he graduated with
honours in Anthropology. He continued his studies under Dr. Steinhausen,
noted for his research into African tribal customs. Upon receiving his PhD,
he accepted a position at Sorbonne. From here he began his early research
into African rituals and led several expeditions into Africa for which he
gained international acclamation.
In July of 1981, despite scepticism from colleagues, Dr. Vander returned to
the Congo in search of the truth behind the legendary Mokele Mbembe. This
was to be his last expedition.
In October of 1981, a privately funded expedition recovered diaries and
recordings belonging to Dr. Vander. No clues to his disappearance were
Region: Algeria / Africa
Tribe Studied: Ibakharu
Date of Original Recordings: February-April, 1952
Sus Salvanius (pygmy wild boar) are believed by the Ibakharu to have the
ability to share their thoughts with the other boars in their band. This
thought-sharing enables the boars to find each other and also warn each
other of impending danger. The Ibakharu use this knowledge to track and
hunt the boar. The thought-reader of the tribe reads the boar's thoughts
and tells them to the tribe percussionists. Through the melodies and
instruments they play, the percussionists speak to the hunters. In this
manner, the hunters know the position of the boar at all times. It is only
the boar who has learned to control his thoughts and deceive the
thought-readers, who escapes the hunt.
The Ibakharu women dress as monkeys and prepare the feast. In addition to
the boar's meat, the meal includes several types of berries and fruit as
well as tree roots and sap.
It is interesting to note that the Ibakharu women are looked upon as
inferior. Their only job in the tribe is food preparation and sexual
gratification for the great hunters and warriors. Because they are
considered to be inferior the Ibakharu have no need to remember or include
the women in legends passed down through generations. For this reason, the
women are never given names.
the burning of the sweat
in my eyes
my heart pounding from in my chest
in the distance
the tribal rhythms
keep time to the chase
the wild boar
i fear for my life
the birds - the mean looking ones
know where i'll be
except for the incessant drums
the jungle stays silent
the footfalls closing in
i fear my life
the monkeys with no name
gather bananas for the feast
the fetish priest cries
Region: Nigeria (near the Benue River) / Africa
Tribe Studied: Jhao
Date of Original Recordings: August-September, 1967
The following description is based on a weak translation of information told
to us by the Jhao leader. In general, the natives do not openly share
details of their rituals with outsiders, but through gifts and bribes we
were able to get this somewhat sketchy explanation. The "bird" described
herein is not believed to be a specific bird. To the best of our
translation, we have determined that types of birds are not differentiated.
The Jhao refer to this bird as Nakaw Naa, which simply translates as
The White Hunt Bird. As we were not allowed to accompany the Jhao
hunters, we can not be sure of this bird's actual genus or species.
The river flows throughout the jungle gathering secrets of the animals and
The Jhao have developed a complex ritual to return the secrets. It includes
very little speech and is performed almost entirely through the use of
percussion. The Jhao believe that Nakaw Naa changes colour because of the
stolen secrets they possess. They perform the ritual with increasing
complexity each time as they try to fully return the secrets to Nakaw Naa,
so it may regain its white colour. They know that if they do not return all
the secrets Nakaw Naa will, eventually, turn black and die, leaving them in
darkness and unable to hunt.
Nakaw Naa drinks water from the rapids, taking its secrets, and then flies
around the jungle singing, passing these secrets on to all the other animals
Nakaw Naa is born white [ the river has secrets to tell ]. As long as Nakaw
Naa continues to hear secrets from the river, it keeps its colour. When he
is all colourful [ we see him as black ] there are no secrets left for the
river to tell.
We have learned to listen for the whispers that the rapids speak to Nakaw
Naa, revealing to us locations of the hunt and necessary plants. The
secrets must be returned to Nakaw Naa before we may listen again.
The Jhao leader explains the ritual to the young tribe members during the
preparation of the ceremony.
On a return expedition to this area in August/September of 1974, Dr. Vander
noted the following:
The Jhao no longer hunt live food, eating only plants and fruit, but
still retain the ritual, in hopes that Nakaw Naa will return to allow them
to hunt again.
Water samples of this area show an increase in acidity.
My previously recorded population of 87 has fallen to 33.
... and the hunters went out
into the endless jungle to believe
hidden at the water's edge
listening for the fighting waters whisper
to that which is white and sings the songs of secrets
with these beliefs
the hunters learn the hunt
with these beliefs
the hunters hurt the hunted
to heal the darkness
the tribe must give
what was to be owned
at the water's edge
and listen for the fighting water's whisper ...
the darkness ...
Region: Congo (Zaire) / Africa
Date of Original Recordings: July-August, 1981
Route: Begin at Gombe Matadi, travel up the Congo River to Mossaka,
the Ubangi River to Dongo and then to Bomboma.
Dr. Vander is convinced of the existence of the Mokele Mbembe in the lost
swamps of the Ubangi Congo.
What follows is an excerpt from the diary of Dr. Vander, which was the only
thing found from this expedition. The whereabouts of Dr. Vander and those
of his expedition members are unknown. This is his last known recorded
expedition, which took him into the uncharted regions of the Ubangi Congo in
search of his life's ambition, the Mokele Mbembe.
I have been asked to head up this expedition into the Congo because of my
life's knowledge of the uncharted Ubangi. The reason: To find Dr.
RedLinger and his expedition who set out into the Congo in search of
maaloti, a plant known to be used by the Arualaba tribe for medicinal
purposes. The plant is believed to have great potential in medical studies.
Upon my own initiative, I have chosen the team to search for Dr. RedLinger
and to study the animals of this area. I believe that these animals somehow
tie into the reported happenings. It is my firm belief that a tribe lives
secretly in this area and it is my goal to find the truth behind the Mokele
We begin, our expedition led by the world renowned Anthropologist, Dr.
Bernard S. Vander, into the heart of wild Likouala Region.
Gombe Matadi, and hot
A heard of Loxodonta africana throng in a cool mud bath escaping the heat.
Our motor disturbs a family of Osteolaemus, resting lazily on the bank's
edge. They seek safety and advantage in the darkness of the river.
Although we can not see him, we hear The Voice of Africa, Aves haliaets
vocifer, high in the boughs of treetops, waiting ...
This bird needs no introduction.
The Congolese tribesman, our guide, his name reminds me of nothing in
Ainabo, savours the meat of an insect he has pulled from the river.
We observe Papio cynocephalus. The troop moves about feeding on bark and
leaves, continuing their chorus of quiet grunts. One of the males keeps us
under observation awaiting the single bark of a female.
they take care not to let the white man hear them talk
in case they are put to work
As evening approaches, we wait expectantly for the mating calls of
His eyes on us ... Varanus niloticus basks on a branch overhanging the
water. His heavy breathes give away his camouflage, evidence that he may
have just returned from a chase.
Perhaps nervous of our approach he edges towards the branches end.
A sudden double bark from the jungle startles niloticus. Instinctively he
inflates ... His speed follows him into the water. A glimpse of his fading
underbelly spots tell us that he is an old one, and perhaps not as fast as
he used to be.
Without warning, from high in the boughs of treetops, " The Voice Of Africa
", plunges towards our boat. The motor does not scare him; no sound deters
As the bird nears our boat our guide calms our fear, pointing to the water.
Haliaets vocifer is quick and Protopterus aethiopicus screams his last
Freed of our fear of Haliaets vocifer, we notice our guide, his name reminds
me of nothing in Ainabo, desperately fleeing the river.
We become aware of the rhythms.
Replacing our fear - the drums grow louder ...
knowing the message of the Speaking Rhythms ...
as though he read some message in the rhythms of the drums
the Congolese runs in fear
mambaso mokemme in chi
© 1990 young monkey